Twinsburg girls use depth to retain National Conference track title

Steve Batko
Correspondent
Twinsburg Sophie Besett runs to a second place finish in the girls 400 meter dash at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.
Twinsburg Alexander Branch, center, heads to a first place finish as Stow-Munroe Falls Clayton Mosher, right comes in second and Nordonia Matt Cooper, left, comes in third in the boys 4 x 200 meter relay at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.
Twinsburg anchor runner Arriah Gilmer crosses the finish line to take her team to a first place finish in the girls 4x200 meter relay at the Suburban League National Conference track meet at Nordonia High School on Thursday May 13, 2021.

Even though Twinsburg’s girls track squad won the last Suburban League National Conference title back in 2019, there were no guarantees of another crown this spring.

In fact, with the depth of Wadsworth and Hudson, which has tons of distance running points, plus some star-power that Stow-Munroe Falls possesses, a top three finish was not even a sure thing.

Fueled by a superb outing by the Tiger’s sprint crew and a huge 20-point effort by senior thrower Nighyah Carthen, girls head coach Sarah Kmet was thrilled by her club capturing another league title.

Kmet and Tiger boys head coach Anthony Byrd saw some great performances by Tiger athletes at the Suburban League Championships May 12-13 at Nordonia High

In the girls’ team standings, Twinsburg prevailed 112.5-98 over Hudson. The locals also finished ahead of Wadsworth (94.5) and Stow (89).

“The team win is a testament to the hard work of both our athletes and coaches,” proclaimed Kmet, after the title win.

“As the saying goes, tradition doesn’t graduate, our kids continue to perform their best when it matters most,” added Kmet. “Almost all of our kids dropped season-best performances.”

To the delight of Byrd, youthful Twinsburg scored well in a loaded boys’ field that included champion Hudson (128), plus Wadsworth (125), Stow (121), and Nordonia (110). Twinsburg netted 66 points.

The Twinsburg lone boys champion came in the 800-meter relay and it was a spirited win in a fast heat.

Byrd’s 800-meter relay crew upset what was thought to be a prohibitive favorite in Stow, behind a blazing fast season-best time!

Twinsburg was not to be outdone with a fast clocking of 1-minute and 29.74 seconds, the Tiger boys flew to victory behind the running of Chris Wilson, Logan Doyle, Antoine Brown, and Alex Branch. Stow came in at 1:29.89.

Twinsburg’s sprint relays in heated action on the track and along with points from the open races, enabled the Lady Tigers to win easily over their closest sprint rivals, North Royalton, Wadsworth and Cuyahoga Falls.

Kmet saw her 800-meter relay cruise to victory, led by battle-tested state and national performers in Akira Johnson and Rana Thornton, coupled by the immense talents of amazing youngsters like freshman Savannah Swanda and sophomore Arriah Gilmer.

“The 4x200-meters of Akira, Savannah, Rana, and Arriah ran a season best of 1:44.65 for the win,” said Kmet.

Another crown came in the 400-meter relay, which had a strong time of 49.98 ticks with another exciting freshman in Bree Banach, plus Swanda, Johnson, and Thornton, the anchor runner.

Carthen was a double title winner, exploding for 20 team points for the girls.

“Nighyah wins both the shot and discus for 20 big points in the field,” said Kmet.

In the shot put, Carthen won with a throw of 38-feet and 11.0 inches. The veteran captured the discus title with a heave of 110-7 feet.

“Nighyah puts an enormous amount of pressure on herself, demanding her absolute best performance every time she steps foot into the circle for shot put or discus,” stressed Byrd, who also coaches the throwers in the track program. “Nighyah is a technician when it comes to throws, always inquiring about the why when a throw is not up to her standards or perfect.”

“She (Carthen) analyzes all her throwing videos, looking at every movement for flaws to correct,” went on Byrd.

“Carthen will watch other throwers during competition and on video, comparing their technique with her own as a way to improve her performance,” added Byrd.

Kmet had loads of praise for her girls’ sprinting crew and Swanda, who starred in the open races.

“Savannah nabs runner-up honors in both the 100 and 200,” noted Kmet, of one of the area’s fastest rookie runners.

Swanda did battle in the 100 and 200-meter races, running faster than her seed times, but Wadsworth speedster Mina Leopold had a slight edge in both sprints.

Behind a great time of 12.62 seconds, Swanda ran second in the 100-meter dash to Leopold, who was timed at 12.51.

In the 200-meter competition, Swanda crossed in 25.99 ticks, just behind Leopold at 25.84.

Senior Nicole Abraham had a huge meet for Twinsburg.

Abraham was the league runner-up at Nordonia in the 300-meter hurdles as she ran her best race at 49.59 seconds.

In the 100-meter race, Abraham has a fast time of 16.85 ticks to place fifth.

“Nicole drops a big PB in the 300 hurdles to finish second overall,” said an excited Kmet.

Kmet was also pumped about runner-up finishes in the high jump by Sydnee Donegan and a second-place in the 400-meter race by experienced and versatile Sophie Besett, who has stretched through the years from a sprinter to a middle distance stalwart.

Donegan placed second overall in the high jump with an effort of 4-10 feet.

“Sydnee finishes as runner-up in the high jump,” said Kmet.

Besett had a PB in the open 400-meters by over 2.5 full seconds! She was just edged at the finish line by Brecksville’s Emma Hamilton as she crossed in 58.28 seconds. Hamilton crossed in 58.16.

“Sophie Besett ran a massive PR in the 400 to finish second overall,” said Kmet.

Competing at the same venue, Twinsburg is pepping for the upcoming Nordonia Division I District Meet on May 19 and May 21 with the top four athletes in each event advancing to the regional action.

“We are peaking at the right time and I’m looking forward to districts this week,” offered Kmet.

Other top boys’ efforts at the league meet included a superb race by Aiden Cain to grab second in the 1,600-meter race.

Wadsworth’s Luke Loveless won in 4:28.88 in the 1,600-meters, but Cain applied pressure with a PR of 4:29.23.

“Aiden finishes as the runner-up in the 1,600-meter race in an exciting finish that produced a five second PB,” remarked Kmet, who coaches the distance runners.

In the hurdles competition, Josh Mikulka was a double scorer for the Tigers as he produced a pair of season best marks!

Mikulka ran third in the 300-meter hurdles in 42.37 seconds and ran a fast 110-meter high hurdles race in 15.54 seconds, placing fourth in a loaded field of athletes.

Brown also had a strong meet for the boys as the rangy and athletic senior also finished third in the long jump and added a fourth in the 200-meters in 22.74 ticks.

Springing for a best leap of 21-0.5 feet, Brown would like to also challenge for a spot in the tough district field.

The girls also had some big top five efforts at Nordonia.

Johnson added a pair strong fourth-place finishes in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. In the 100, Johnson crossed in 12.88 ticks, which bested her seed time! She was timed at 26.98 ticks in the 200.

In the 400-meter race, Gilmer had a huge run of 1:01.90 to place fifth.

Grabbing fifth was the 1,600-meter relay which had a superb time of 4:08.39 behind Gilmer, Sanayah Ruffin, Thornton, and Besett.

Running fifth was the 3,200-meter relay (10:05.65) with senior Katie Vasiliauskas, Cordi Firem, Caroline Boskelly, and Besett.

The boys’ top-seeded 400-meter relay (43.06) DQ’d in the league meet and hopes to rebound at districts.

Doyle and Cameron Griffin ran well in the open 400-meters, seizing fourth and fifth-place, respectively. Doyle crossed in 51.72 seconds and Griffin, 52.13.

In the 100-meters, Branch ran fifth in a strong field in 11.34 seconds while Wilson took sixth, in 11.39 seconds.

Wilson also had a huge PR in the long jump, where he scored with a leap of 20-6.75 feet.

Twinsburg’s 3,200-meter relay added a fifth-place (8:31.65) with Ryan Mulenga, Samuel Wales-McGrath, Aiden Bennage, and Cain.

The sixth-place 1,600 relay (3:33.28) has a good cast of Doyle, Griffin, Cain, and Branch. Cain also added an eighth-place in the 800 (2:06.89).

Byrd and Kmet hope to capture some surprising points in district action. At times, points in the relays are hard to come by, but both Tiger teams have solid threats.

Other girls’ placers included a big open double by Vasiliauskas as she took sixth in the 1,600-meters with a season best of 5:25.81 and ran seventh to score in the 3,200-meters in 12:19.98.

Firem ran with a fast time of 2:27.67 in the 800-meters to post an eight-place, which is where senior Kara Pruett finished in the pole vault with an effort of 8-6 feet.